The Rosetta Stone Challenge - Italian

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The Meaning Of Fluency
Levels of Mastery
When Will I Master the Language?
Where Should I Learn?

The Meaning Of Fluency

When I ask others about the meaning of the word "fluency", or when I hear others talk about it, the three top definitions I hear are:

  1. Knowledge of a large amount of vocabulary
  2. A near perfect understanding and use of Italian grammar
  3. Rarely make any mistakes

Now, when you look for the word in a dictionary, you will find the following:

In the Oxford English dictionary it also says:

When it comes to languages and learning them, the word "fluent" (or any variation of it) is used in misleading students into thinking it's a level of native-like proportions. You have to learn a large amount of vocabulary and understand, or use, most grammar rules perfectly.

...I do not agree.

Let me show you what I mean. If you're learning Italian, even if you've just finished your first lesson and you have learned the following (informal) conversation:

    Buongiorno, come stai?
    Sto bene, grazie. E tu?
    Bene grazie.

If you can say it easily, naturally and understand what the other person is saying to you - then you are fluent in Italian conversation. Before you criticize, think about it, it fits the definitions given above...

If you can talk to someone in Italian and do so with confidence about your daily activities and understand their replies, then you can say you are fluent - the conversation is flowing.

Mastering a Language

Now, if you want to speak about getting to a high level of language learning according to the standards set by the Common European Framework [1], you are not fluent in a language, but you are attempting to master the language. That's where you get into the "debater level" [2] of the language (CEFR Level B2, YLCStudents Level 08/09).

A debater is a person who has mastered the language to where they can have long conversations, understand the language when spoken on TV, radio, film, etc., use or understand complicated grammatical structures with little or no difficulty. He or she would also have a good accent and understand various dialects with slight-to moderate difficulty. And it's done in a flowing manner.

So whenever someone asks if you are fluent in Italian, then yes you are from the very first word you've learned. If you have mastered Italian, that answer is up to you. ;-)

Reference Links

[1] Common European Framework - The CEFR Levels
[2] Levels of Mastery - Debater (Mastered the Language)